Labour Saving Devices

Labour saving devices


Should anyone look at their hands they will notice an apposing finger which is called ‘thumb’. This, an evolutionary device to allow the picking up and holding of objects with great accuracy and so furthering the intelligence of the creature thus endowed.

The making and use of tools for instance would have been impossible without the thumb and therefore the levels of intelligence arising from the use of those tools would not have occurred.

Labour saving devices however, are deliberately conceived to eliminate the use of the apposing thumb, requiring merely an extended finger to press a button; no skill or knack required for this act and the relinquishing of manual dexterity, along with the innate intelligence in the hands is a loss worthy of serious consideration and contributes no little to the disassociation which is so obvious in our present culture

Take for instance the electric toothbrush, a machine of extreme indulgence, far removed from the vigorous and skilful application of a co-ordinated hand and elbow. Or the assault on the ears from the hideous and unmusical wailing of a vacuum-cleaner; this is sonic pollution of the worst kind.

We would have been far better off staying up a tree in the first place.


Big Business

Smith (for want of a better name) has been noticing for quite some time that people, amongst whom he guesses women predominate; are in love with the vacuum-cleaner; a kind of sucking machine with a very loud and gruesome voice.

He is aware of this addiction through the oft-heard expression: ‘I don’t know what I would do without it.’ And has on occasion suggested that one might then have easy recourse to the common broom, a far more benign instrument and silent to boot. Given then this addiction he sees a way in which he might exploit this weakness to his own advantage, whilst also bringing certain benefits to others.

He has decided to invent a new kind of vacuum-cleaner which will allow those so addicted to experience all the habitual motions of an ordinary machine, while depriving it of the more ghastly attributes; the most heinous of which is the kind of noise that one would not expect to meet otherwhere than on the ghost-train at a fairground.

He examines this problem and realises almost immediately that the source of this abomination is an electrical motor, which therefore is the first thing to be jettisoned. His new machine will be motorless and what’s more will on this account not need to be plugged in, thus simultaneously dispensing with the electrical chord. Now the operator can move freely at last, rather like a horse let loose in a field, no longer bound to a restricting lead tethered to a wall-plug.

Those of a pedantic turn of mind might point out that without a motor the appliance will not suck; but Smith is not sympathetic to pedantry of this sort since it only produces obstacles in the path of his project. Dismissing this frivolity as of no account he moves on to the next important item: Mobility.

Although a dissident by nature and subversive in practice he is by no means a bigot, and is always ready to profit from the ‘tried and true.’ For he has noticed on many occasions that the old ways are not always to be sneezed at. In this instance he accepts that the issue of mobility has already been resolved in a way that cannot be improved on, and therefore his new machine will be equipped with wheels as is normal practice.

Pushing this new machine backwards and forwards will satisfy the addict’s habitual urge to engage in this process while bringing peace to the mind from its silence, and should some pedantic thought occur, Smith is already devising a way to divert such boring and nihilistic notions. The vacuum-cleaner, no longer needing to conform in shape to function is thus freed to adopt any configuration that imagination proscribes.

It could therefore be in the form of a long blue tri-angle with a yellow ball on top. For the ladies perhaps a green velvet covered disk with a red tassel or two might be pleasing. Smith imagination is now at full throttle and he anticipates a new art-form emerging.

‘They’ll have to keep turning in their old models in order to buy my latest design,’ he thinks, and imagines visiting at some time in the future a lady-friend who has purchased one of his vacuum-cleaners.


She wheels it up and down while Smith watches her approvingly from a couch.

‘Isn’t it lovely and quiet?’ she says, turning around with a dancer’s flourish, ‘and look, I don’t have to worry about the lead,’ and she executes a few more dainty steps.

Her machine is shaped as a five pointed star with a small bell dangling from each point which tinkle sweetly as she goes to-and-fro harmlessly satisfying her craving. Smith is very satisfied with these results and is congratulating himself on his ingenuity when a small frown crosses the ladies brow.

‘But you know,’ she says. ‘There is only one problem. I’ve noticed that my floor is getting filthier by the day.’

Smith is ready to deal with this class of pedantic wilfulness.

‘Haven’t you a broom in your broom-cupboard?’ he asks.

She looks at him uncomprehendingly.

‘Ye – es,’ she falters.

‘Well why don’t you sweep the floor then?’ he asks, ‘after all that’s what brooms are for.’


Dave Tomlin
Pic: Claire Palmer


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